The food industry is being prevented from fully embracing the latest food science and technology because of consumers’ fear of ‘Frankenstein food’, according to former food and farming minister Jim Paice.
Paice, who is now MP for south east Cambridgeshire, told the Institute of Food Science and Technology’s Jubilee conference in Kensington, London, earlier this week (May 14): “To some those two words [genetic engineering] strike this fear of the unknown – Frankenstein foods – of all sorts of horrible consequences.”
Genetic modification (GM) is at the heart of human progress and should be adopted to help combat issues surrounding scarcity of land to grow food on and the growing population, he added.
“Science has been at the heart of human progress, it’s funny that we manage to welcome it when it cures or prevents an illness, but somehow when it is applied to food it conjures up grotesque images.”
Science had proved sceptics who have been claiming the world would run out of food wrong for over 100 years, Paice claimed.
“We have managed to do the research, we have turned it into real productivity on the ground,” he claimed.
“If we go back further than that to Jethro Tull developing the first seed drill … that was a form of science it was physical engineering, he developed a way to put seed in the ground at the same depth and much more efficiently than had ever been done before.”
Celia Caulcott, director of innovation and skills at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), said the latest food science and technology could help improve diet and health by making fruit and vegetables taste nicer and boost their nutritional value.
Understanding genetics and the latest scientific research could also improve shelf-life of food products and therefore reduce food waste, Caulcott claimed.
“We need to make sure that the practitioners, the primary producers and anybody that’s involved in our food production and supply chain have a grasp of new technologies and techniques and understand how to deploy the information.”
The BBSRC and a number of universities are working to deliver information and training to make sure the latest science is brought out of the laboratory and into practice by food manufacturers, she added.